Wed, Sep 05, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Saudi Binladin Group rejects Sept. 11 liability

NOT ONE OF US Victim representatives are seeking damages from the Saudi Binladin Group, which says it is not liable because Osama bin Laden was forced out in 1993

AP , NEW YORK

Lawyers for the Saudi Binladin Group, responding to lawsuits filed over the Sept. 11 attacks, say the large engineering and construction company is not liable for the terrorist plot because it forced Osama bin Laden to surrender his stake in the company 14 years ago.

In court papers, the lawyers argued that the Saudi Binladin Group, founded in 1989, forced the terrorist mastermind out as a shareholder of the company and another family-owned company, the Mohammad Binladin Co, in June 1993.

The document was filed on Friday evening in US District Court in Manhattan in response to claims in lawsuits brought by representatives, survivors and insurance carriers of the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs claimed that the Saudi Binladin Group, along with numerous banks, charities and individuals worldwide, provided material support and assistance to al-Qaeda prior to the attacks. The lawsuits seek billions of dollars in damages.

The court documents identified Bakr Binladin -- Osama bin Laden's brother, the senior member of the bin Laden family and chairman of Saudi Binladin Group -- as one of al-Qaeda's principal financiers.

A judge in July had ordered Saudi Binladin Group to provide additional information about where the money for Osama bin Laden's 2 percent stake in the company went.

The plaintiffs, in court papers filed in August, complained the order fell short. It required the company to produce records of changes in the assets of a 1993 trust created from the sale of Osama bin Laden's shares -- but only if they document transfers to bin Laden.

"Trusts are a tool often abused by terrorist financiers due to their ability to hide true ownership of trust assets, conceal the identity of parties benefiting from the trust and otherwise mask financial details," the plaintiffs said.

In its filing, lawyers for Saudi Binladin Group said Bakr Binladin publicly renounced Osama bin Laden in a statement released to the media in February 1994. Two months later, the Saudi government revoked Osama bin Laden's citizenship and froze his assets, the lawyers noted.

These actions, they said, occurred well before the US first placed Osama bin Laden on its list of designated terrorist individuals and organizations on Aug. 20, 1998, the same year the leader of al-Qaeda issued an edict that it was the duty of Muslims to attack US citizens.

Osama bin Laden has more than 50 siblings who share in the fortune amassed after Osama's father, Mohammed Binladin, built his construction empire, elevating his family to among the wealthiest in Saudi Arabia.

However, the financial worth of Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaeda founder, has remained in dispute.

According to the court papers, Saudi Binladin Group was created as the surviving entity of Moham-med Binladin's construction company, which was formed in the 1930s.

Mohammad Binladin died in 1967, and ownership of his companies was passed along to his children.

The lawyers said the Saudi Binladin Group had helped the US when it built the King Abdul Aziz Air Base, from which US forces operated during the first Gulf War.

The Sept. 11 commission concluded that the Sudanese government took Osama bin Laden's assets when he left the Sudan in 1996.

"He left Sudan with practically nothing," the commission said.

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